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'Mad Men' costume designer Janie Bryant talks about her new fashion reality series

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Image Credit: Palma Kolansky

With the final season of Mad Men on the horizon, costume designer Janie Bryant has started to plan for life after dressing Don Draper.

Bryant has teamed up with the creators of NBC’s Fashion Star for a new fashion competition reality series, tentatively titled Janie Bryant’s Hollywood

“I wanted to do a show that combines my passions of film, costume design, and fashion design,” the Emmy-winning costume designer told EW.com. “As the costume designer of Mad Men – and of Deadwood before that — I have had this experience with my work that fashion designers have been influenced by my work, which has been a great honor. I started my career as a fashion designer, so it’s been an interesting journey to have my career come back to fashion design.”

Bryant worked with producers James Deutch and E.J. Johnston to develop the concept — which sounds like a cross between Project Runway and Syfy’s makeup artist reality competition Face Off – for over a year. “It’s a fashion show for people who love movies and TV. We want it to be broader than just fashion. It’s about Hollywood and why people love great costumes and costume design, [so Janie] was the first person who came to mind,” Deutch told EW. “Janie represents that movement in the industry where you can be an amazing designer for entertainment, but also cross over into real life products. [She] has a deal with Maidenform and then there’s the Banana Republic Mad Men collection. There’s so much crossover now that people who were previously just doing one form of design are now working in all kinds of areas.”

Bryant says she also aims to teach viewers the difference between fashion stylists and costume designers. “Costume design is about creating a character through costume and telling a story about that character on film, television, or in theatre,” she said. “The intention and focus is not necessarily about fashion. The intensions and motivations are very different.”

Though Deutch acknowledged that Bryant’s series and Fashion Star share “similar format points,” the biggest differences will be the challenges. So what’s in store for competitors? “They will be given challenges that tie into famous Hollywood films or celebrity style. If you can envision Steve McQueen in the Thomas Crowne Affair, it’s an iconic Hollywood fashion moment, so contestants will be given inspirations like that and they’ll have to design a look that’s a contemporary interpretation of this classic Hollywood fashion moment,” he explained. “The idea is to tap into those memories people have of their favorite films and their favorite stars.”

Like, say, the characters of Mad Men?

“I haven’t talked to [the cast] about it. I would love it if they would say yes and come on,” said Bryant, who shared the big news with Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner last week. “I would be so excited. It would be amazing, but no, [nothing is confirmed] yet.” Since today marks “the first day of preparing” for her new show, Bryant says she’s watched episodes of Fashion Star to get a feel for the format. “It makes me so uptight because it brings me back to the high pressure of being in fashion design school,” she admitted. As for whether she’ll seek pointers from Fashion Star mentors Jessica Simpson, John Varvatos, or Nicole Richie; “Hey I’m open! Any advice I can get!”

No premiere date has been set — the series still isn’t attached to a network — but the producers are planning to film in the spring with the hopes of a fall 2014 debut. And with Bryant as the star, Deutch says the search for judges and mentors is next. “We haven’t gotten to that point. Usually the way we build a show like this is [we] have [our] lead voice for the show, so we’re starting there. But we’re totally open to people who are fashion editors, film and television people who come from this world, costume designers, actors, directors.”

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